ANDERSON – Even after day two, things just don’t seem to feel right in the Colts’ front line of defense.
Even Robert Mathis admitted that things simply don’t feel as familiar as they had the past ten years.
“It’s weird. It’s really weird,” said the Colts outside linebacker of the fact that Dwight Freeney isn’t on the other side of the line during Colts’ training camp at Anderson University.
After 11 years with the team, the Colts and Freeney parted ways after the 2012 season and the linebacker/defensive end signed a contract with the San Diego Chargers. Mathis, meanwhile, remained with the Colts in his new outside linebacker role and has begun to adjust to life without the team’s all-time sack leader.
“It’s just something I’m going to have to get used to because for over a decade I’ve been right next to his side, right there talking and joking,” said Mathis of Freeney. “We formed more of a brotherhood than just teammates. So it’s kinda weird but it’s something that you have to get used to.”
Another thing that will be different for Mathis is assuming the leadership role of the defense-which will be important to choosing a successor to Freeney. Mathis is now the longest tenured member of the Colts as he enters his eleventh year with the franchise. Freeney by a season was the most senior member of the Colts defense but with him gone it’s up to Mathis to try to bring along a young crop of outside linebackers.
As the one of the older players on the team, however, Mathis understands that doing so will present its challenges.
“It’s kind of an age gap. I would say more like ten years or so,” said Mathis. “It’s more like a big brother, little brother type relationship. I just bring them in, show them the ropes and show them Colts football.”
That will be a familiar refrain for Mathis who is dealing with a group of outside linebackers that include two rookies and no player with more than six years of NFL experience. With Freeney gone Mathis will move to the strong side linebacker where he’ll hope to add to his 91.5 career sacks and try to aid in the development of the player on the other side.
“It’s major,” said head coach Chuck Pagano of Mathis’ helping in training a replacement for Freeney. “Match his intensity, match his workload, what he does from a mental standpoint, in the classroom and off the field and what he does on the field.
“Just match his intensity. I challenge the whole team to match his intensity.”